When is a CRA a CRA?



This article, originally published by Al Zucaro on BocaWatch.org, is preserved for historical purposes by Massive Impressions Online Marketing in Boca Raton.
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What has 5 heads, 10 legs and no teeth? The Boca Raton Community Redevelopment Agency, that’s what.

In 1980, the City Council designated 344 acres of blighted Boca Raton as a “community redevelopment agency”, which we now consider to be “Downtown Boca.” Early in its life, this CRA acquired the “Old Boca Mall” and built Mizner Park. The CRA is now only one in title. It’s time for the CRA to become a CRA again.

Bernadette Duran-Brown, in “Redevelopment By Any Other Name Would Still Be Redevelopment” listed traits of an effective CRA to include: “new landscaping, housing and business opportunities mixed with expanded government services with transportation infrastructure.” Our CRA does none. Other than the occasional vote on a proposed development, the CRA pretty much serves as a concert promoter. We deserve more.

There are very few entities with the awesome powers granted to a CRA. Cities all around us are taking advantage of this mechanism, while we watch our CRA do little. “The Ave” in Delray…CRA in action. Pompano Beach booming….CRA in action. Our CRA, happy to have free concerts to brag about. Quite a ways away from “new landscaping, housing and business opportunities mixed with expanded government services with transportation infrastructure.”

An example of the CRA not being a CRA was its May 21 meeting. The meeting lasted 18 minutes, which includes the Pledge of Allegiance, public comment and (the longest item) an update on the Festival of The Arts. 18 minutes.

What could have been discussed? Parking. Lighting. Circulator transit. Shade trees. Crosswalks. The tide of tenant closures in Mizner. Attracting small businesses to the Downtown. Supporting existing businesses. Anything. Something. But no, if a consultant isn’t paid to create a conversation, or a developer doesn’t have a building project up for a vote, we settle for getting it all over with as soon as humanly possible. 18 minutes. 18 minutes!

The special election in August is an opportunity for the candidates and the public to discuss the role of a CRA, and the meaning of being a downtown. I am looking forward to hearing proposals from the candidates on how each envisions new landscaping, housing and business opportunities mixed with expanded government services with transportation infrastructure for our downtown. It is time for the CRA to become a CRA again. We can still have tribute bands, but we deserve so much more.

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  1. “On May 5, 1990 the Downtown Special District was established. In this District, annual special assessments are calculated based upon the ad valorem method as provided for in the bond convents and Resolutions No. 128-90 and No. 129-90 as approved by the Boca Raton City Council.
    The analysis indicated that a typical Downtown property owner would receive at least $7.00 in cumulative monetary benefits for every dollar of special assessment payments by the property owner.”
    As the CRA’s “Downtown Special District” approaches its’ thirty year anniversary, I suggest a detailed audit to determine the benefits versus the costs. Thirty years is a longtime.
    One section (page 5) “Approved Projects” – “Activities and Accomplishments” reads as follows: including Palmetto Promendade and Tower 155; and “Transportation Demand Management” etc. Accomplishments??!! Two grossly out-of-scale and way overly dense (amount of units) developments built to benefit the private sector are Accomplishments?
    Learn more go to: MyBoca.us Click on: Boca Raton CRA

    NOTTe: the Boca Raton CRA was established in 1980

  2. I agree with you Michael, the CRA has lost it’s way. Just look at the poor guy who wants to open an ice cream shop with a walk up window on Palmetto Park Road. He had to go through the IDA process, The same process that the Mandarin Oriental Hotel had to go through! The CRA should instead be carving out regulations to make it easier for businesses to open up in our downtown.

  3. While you’re completely correct from a Downtown perspective Mike, this particular week involved Council Member Andrea O’Rourke, the head of the CRA, taking care of us out here in Midtown preparing that Visioning Session. If you went to that you would have seen how well it was put together and produced. I’m always criticizing government events because they’re so boring but this one was so well thought out it had me very excited, maybe too excited, the whole time. That took a lot to put together. And in spite of my “criticisms” of it I had some positive take-aways. It was enlightening and important even if not completely satisfying.

    But it just highlights the same core question: does getting bigger as a City mean its time to have the roles spread out between more hands? It will be interesting to hear what Council Member O’Rourke feels should be considered; she’s the one wearing the hat now and nobody knows better how it feels to do that today. She’s today’s authority on how it feels to have to manage the role of a council person and the role of a CRA lead together.

  4. Our CRA is basically a taxing authority that approves development projects. And also paved some sidewalks. That’s about it. The potential was enormous. The reality is dismal.

  5. From a Delray Beach point of view let me just say all you have to do is look west of Swinton Avenue and realize the CRA Board had not done their job. Developing east in the downtown continued to be their priority which helps explain why Delray Beach now has their Commission has the task in hand.
    Millions of dollars at the disposal of a few unelected officials with no accountability was just not working.

  6. During my tenure as a small business owner in Delray Beach, I found the CRA to be an enormous help. Their door was alway open to business owners/operators, not so easy walking into city hall with the same requests.
    (I had galleries on Atlantic and NE 6th Ave – closed after Hurricane Wilma in 2006)


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